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Don’t let the BNP in, say Churches

17 April 2008

by Bill Bowder

HUMAN-RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Free Churches, and the Bishop of Durham warned voters this week not to allow the far Right to gain power in forthcoming local elections on 1 May.

A swing of 0.3 per cent would give the British National Party (BNP) a seat on the Greater LondonAssembly.

The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, in an open letter to his clergy on Sunday, wrote that mainstream parties had left people feeling “disaffected”, and there was a danger the vacuum would be filled by the BNP.

“None of us can be complacent. Opposing the BNP isn’t simply a matter of saying ‘the status quo is working fine, so please reject these idiots’. It should be a matter of saying, ‘What does a healthy society look like and how can we make it clear to our whole population that we are working in the best ways towards that goal?’”

Peter Tatchell, the human-rights activist and member of the gay campaigning group OutRage!, said in a statement on Wednesday that lesbian and gay voters could help block the election of candidates from “the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and homophobic” BNP.

In 2004, the party had won 4.8 per cent of the vote in the London elections. “It only needs five per cent of the vote to win a seat on the London Assembly,” Mr Tatchell said.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union, and the United Reformed Church urged churches to unite against racism and extremism. “When local communities come together, they can make a real difference and can stop racist parties from winning, or even kick them out of their strongholds,” a joint briefing paper said.

Henry Grunwald QC, President of the Board of Deputies, called for a big election turnout. “As British citizens, we have a responsibility to make sure that the politics of hate has no place in our home.”

Hundreds of London churches were invited to a hustings at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, next Wednesday at 6 p.m., for the mayoral election.

“We think people will want to know their position on planning laws for churches in London, youth inclusion, community involvement, and what they are going to do about family cars and the congestion charge,” an Evangelical Alliance spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The Alliance is organising the event.

The Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat candidates would be present, she said. The Green Party is to be there, as is Councillor Alan Craig, the Christian Choice candidate. He has called on multi-ethnic Churches to come out against the BNP. “We need to build a more tolerant London,” he said.

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